We live on an extraordinary planet. Think about it, of all the celestial bodies orbiting our sun, Earth is the only one with forests, savannahs, or oceans teeming with fish. If you pull back and look at our planet in the grand scope of the galaxy, it’s amazing that this tiny blue marble is brimming with so much life! It also serves to remind us of our precarious place in the universe. The Earth may be filled with wonders, but if we’re not careful, we could lose them.

There’s no time this is more apparent than on Earth Day. While this annual event serves to educate us about nature, it always arrives tinged with bad news. The effects of climate change are starting to mount. More and more forests are being destroyed while coral reefs are bleaching at alarming rates. Our planet is in trouble and it’s not like we have a spare one lying around, right?

Planet B

As educators, we’re equipped to handle this problem from two unique directions. Not only can we teach our students about the importance of sustainable living, but we can also encourage them to start thinking about a potential future on Mars. Scientists have always speculated that the Red Planet has the potential for human habitation. Now, with the recent landing of the Perseverance rover, the dream of settling Mars is inching closer to reality. So, let’s spark our students’ curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking by letting them explore the science of saving one planet while gaining another.

With a little help from Blue Apple’s The Dirty Truth project, here are just a few ways you can encourage students to save our planet and think about the future of Mars:

  • Pale Blue Dot: Help students get a broader view of our universe by watching Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. Once concluded, ask students to ponder the implications of what they just watched. How has it changed their view of Earth? Was there anything they found particularly striking? Do they think humans should be trying to fix the Earth, or travel toward Mars? Have them write their answers in a reflection journal.
  • Ask an Astronaut: NASA is interested in hearing from students! Use this link to reach out and ask questions about their own Mars programs. Discuss how long it took to build the Perseverance rover and how they got it to land on Mars. You could also try connecting with an American astronaut on social media. Follow this link or visit @NASA_Astronauts to hear their thoughts on saving Earth and settling Mars.
  • Canvas the Neighborhood: Have students poll their friends and family by asking which they think is more important: Building a healthy Earth or creating a habitat on Mars? Once the interviews are complete, have students create a piece of graphic art based on their answers. Use the colors red and blue to show the majority opinion. Redder if people leaned towards Mars, and Bluer if they stand with Earth!
  • Growth Mindset: Earth is filled with plant life, and Mars has the potential for it as well. Start by introducing students to the differences between Earth’s soil and the regolith of Mars. Follow this up by discussing how fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates break down dead matter to create nutrients for soil. Lastly, tie it all together by creating a Winogradsky column together as a class!
One Small Step

While settling Mars may seem like wishful thinking, you never know what scientific discoveries are waiting just around the corner. Our students have the potential to change the world, and whether that means restoring Earth or building a home on Mars, it’s our responsibility to help them think big and dream bigger. So, take a moment this Earth Day to educate students on the vital role they play in preserving our wonderful world. If they enjoy these lessons and want to keep on learning, head over to blueappleteachers.org and check out our full The Dirty Truth project!

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